Art in the Garage: A Review of fast & dirty’s Garage Show

Writ­ten by Anne Pasek

Garage sales are always a pecu­liar form of dis­play. Pub­lic and pri­vate spaces min­gle, col­lec­tions are unwit­ting­ly cat­a­loged and assem­bled, and pre­cious keep­sakes made nego­tiable. It is lit­tle won­der, then, that this for­mat should pro­vide a fruit­ful space to build nar­ra­tives about mem­o­ry and val­ue. This was the real­iza­tion of the fast & dirty col­lec­tive: the orga­niz­ers and artists behind Garage Show.

Robert Harpin and Adriean Koler­ic, Garage Instal­la­tion, 2011. Pho­to Cred­it: Kris­ten Hutchin­son, 2011.

Curat­ed by Kris­ten Hutchin­son and Jen­nifer Forsyth, Garage Show com­bined the works of Adriean Koler­ic, Robert Harpin and Emi­ly Soder-Dun­can in two of Edmonton’s res­i­den­tial garages.  As per fast & dirty’s ethos, this arrange­ment was tem­po­rary, rough around the edges, and far out­side the hygien­ic habi­tus of the white cube gallery. The show was up for two days, dur­ing which hot­dogs were tail­gat­ed, prices were hag­gled over, and strangers min­gled in art cri­tiques.

Robert Harpin and Adriean Koler­ic, Garage Instal­la­tion, 2011. Pho­to Cred­it: Cen­tree Pho­tog­ra­phy, 2011.

Harpin and Koleric’s instal­la­tion seems to have tak­en its inspi­ra­tion from the air of des­per­a­tion that some­times accom­pa­nies garage sales. The pair con­struct­ed a dark­ly humor­ous nar­ra­tive of a failed artist who, being unable to sell his work at gal­leries, is forced to hawk his wares to indif­fer­ent cus­tomers in his garage.  The pair con­struct­ed a dark­ly humor­ous nar­ra­tive of a failed artist who, being unable to sell his work at gal­leries, is forced to hawk his wares to indif­fer­ent cus­tomers in his garage.

Adriean Koler­ic, Go Home Peter… Go Home, 2011. Mixed Media. Pho­to Cred­it: Adriean Koler­ic, 2011.

The work, com­posed main­ly of mod­i­fied fig­urines, hunt­ing para­pher­na­lia, and 1950s fam­i­ly scenes, seemed to sug­gest a con­struc­tion of mas­culin­i­ty and iden­ti­ty that is trans­par­ent­ly uno­rig­i­nal and defeat­ed. Koleric’s Go Home Peter, Go Home recon­tex­tu­al­izes Spiderman’s icon­ic action pose, press­ing the fig­ure against a wall as if curled up in shame. Harpin’s Shed Antlers, sim­i­lar­ly, ren­ders the wild vir­ile sym­bol of a hunters tro­phy some­what absurd by paint­ing the rack in bright pop art shades of blue, pink, and yel­low. These antlers become domes­ti­cat­ed, infan­tilized and infi­nite­ly more con­sum­able.

Robert Harpin, Shed Antlers, 2011. Mixed Media. Pho­to Cred­it: Cen­tree Pho­tog­ra­phy, 2011.

There a few humor­ous nods to the great scan­dals of con­cep­tu­al art, be it through the Duchampian toi­let hid­ing under a dis­play table or a Damien Hirst-esque plas­tic skull half-cov­ered in glit­ter, tagged for the low, low price of “$2.5 mil­lion- o.b.o.” The pric­ing scheme of the show con­tin­ued this sense of failed mer­can­til­ism, entic­ing con­sump­tion not through the acqui­si­tion of mate­r­i­al goods, but rather the thrill of a bar­gain.

Robert Harpin, Ton­ka, 2011. Found Object. Pho­to Cred­it: Cen­tree Pho­tog­ra­phy, 2011.

A for­mer­ly price­less work was dis­count­ed to “$20- comes with a skate­board.” Like­wise a $6000 fiber piece was knocked down to “$15- used by a real artist!” Sur­pris­ing to some, these bar­gain bin prices were the actu­al going rates for the work. The artists per­formed their roles well, hag­gling with bar­ter­ing vis­i­tors and caught in-between mak­ing the case for the bruised mon­e­tary worth of their art and the desire to rid their stu­dios of clut­ter. These inter­ac­tions made for a very inter­est­ing exam­i­na­tion of how con­cep­tu­al art relies on legit­i­mat­ing struc­tures to main­tain its val­ue, mate­ri­al­ly or oth­er­wise. Ready­mades and appro­pri­a­tions were placed in uncom­fort­able prox­im­i­ty to the banal con­text from which they came, cre­at­ing an anx­i­ety which is reflect­ed in the deflat­ed pric­ing.

Emi­ly Soder-Dun­can, Garage Instal­la­tion, 2011. Pho­to Cred­it: Kris­ten Hutchin­son, 2011.

Emi­ly Soder-Dun­can, con­verse­ly, approached the garage as a site of archiv­ing rather than bare-knuck­le com­merce. Her instal­la­tion eschewed price tags for muse­um labels detail­ing the col­lec­tions sourced in her dis­play of art, antiques, and the sort of nos­tal­gic detri­tus that we might find in our par­ents’ garages. While Harpin and Koleric’s instal­la­tion exposed the fragili­ty of bring­ing art back to its source mate­r­i­al, Soder-Duncan’s work is instead strength­ened by this prox­im­i­ty. The inter­wo­ven ref­er­ences between art and objects revealed con­nec­tions across gen­er­a­tions and sites, while the inti­mate space of her garage imme­di­ate­ly greet­ed the nose with a com­fort­able musti­ness. Sug­gest­ing an old­er form of the muse­um, of archives formed through curios­i­ty and mem­o­ry rather than tax­on­o­my, the instal­la­tion became a charged site of dis­cov­ery and dis­parate rec­ol­lec­tions.

There was an inten­tion­al ambi­gu­i­ty to the ori­gin and art-sta­tus of many of the objects left in the garage. While bygone antiques such as a cro­quette set, wood­en chest, and horse­shoe were labeled as belong­ing either to the artist’s moth­er or garage’s own­er, oth­er objects tucked away in cor­ners went unan­nounced. As one became more immersed in the rela­tion­al his­to­ry of the dis­play, this cat­e­gor­i­cal imper­a­tive to sep­a­rate art from non-art became less and less impor­tant.

Emi­ly Soder-Dun­can, Advan­tage of Left­overs, 2011. Mixed Media. Pho­to Cred­it: Kris­ten Hutchin­son, 2011.

Scraps of envelopes, old cig­a­rette cards and crum­pled card stock came togeth­er in col­lages that recall the sen­ti­men­tal accu­mu­la­tion of memen­tos, of mem­o­ry made vul­ner­a­ble and tan­gi­ble. These mixed media mate­ri­als were then decon­struct­ed in Advan­tage of Left­overs, con­sist­ing of an inven­to­ry of ephemera and small etch­ings pre­served in jam jars lit with the warm glow of a hid­den lamp.

Emi­ly Soder-Dun­can, L.D. Kept is Con­sis­tent, 2011. Mixed Media on wood. Pho­to Cred­it: Kris­ten Hutchin­son, 2011.

L.D Kept it Con­sis­tent, an assem­blage born from an appro­pri­at­ed shin­gle guide, was hung across from a pile of old wood­en shin­gles pro­duced from its form by the artist’s grand­fa­ther. Though objec­tive­ly worth­less, the artists and cura­tors skill­ful­ly con­vince us to imbue these objects with a val­ue that stems from shared famil­iar asso­ci­a­tions and half-for­got­ten child­hoods. This kind of set up makes the view­er acute­ly aware of his/her own embod­i­ment and role to play in bring­ing worth to the art object.

While Garage Show is remark­able for the qual­i­ty of these instal­la­tions alone, it fur­ther pro­voked an intrigu­ing play of pub­lic space and com­mu­ni­ty. The garages were two doors down from one anoth­er, effec­tive­ly appro­pri­at­ing part of the alley into its wider art project. A fur­ni­ture scrapheap beached on a dri­ve­way became much admired for its sculp­tur­al poten­tial, while a half-com­plet­ed bit of mason­ry struck many vis­i­tors as a per­fect Carl Andre. Nor­mal res­i­dents work­ing on projects in their garages near­by became the sub­ject of new curios­i­ty, with the imme­di­ate expec­ta­tion that art would be found inside. The dis­tinc­tion between pub­lic and pri­vate space was blurred, as was the neat sep­a­rate of art from life in the imme­di­ate radius of the instal­la­tions

Garage Show may be only one of fast & dirty’s grow­ing range of projects, but it typ­i­fies the ethos of alter­na­tive inno­va­tion that Edmon­ton has come to expect from this col­lec­tive. Cre­at­ed for artists and by artists, fast & dirty is com­mit­ted to chal­leng­ing tra­di­tion­al cura­to­r­i­al prac­tices and explor­ing the dis­play of art out­side of gallery walls.  Fash­ion­ing tem­po­rary shows in unusu­al places, the collective’s projects have the means to break the iso­la­tion of art from the world while build­ing com­mu­ni­ties of artists and audi­ences that lack access to larg­er cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions. What is emerg­ing in this inves­ti­ga­tion of pos­si­bil­i­ties is the sense that DIY exhi­bi­tion prac­tices are not only pos­si­ble, but also unique­ly reward­ing. By inter­ven­ing in oth­er­wise ordi­nary spaces Garage Show and projects like it cre­ate the con­di­tions for a cogent exam­i­na­tion of the detri­tus and for­got­ten spaces in our own day-to-day prac­tices of liv­ing.

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Garage Show was exhib­it­ed on the 20th and 21st of August, 2011 in Edmon­ton, Alber­ta, Cana­da.

Anne Pasek is a writer, cura­tor and artist based out of Edmon­ton, Alber­ta. A grad­u­ate of both Grant Mace­wan Uni­ver­si­ty and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta, her writ­ing and stu­dio prac­tice have evolved into com­ple­men­tary stud­ies of con­tem­po­rary the­o­ry through art.  As Lat­i­tude 53’s Writer in Res­i­dence, Anne has been able to share some of these thoughts while work­ing to improve the access to ideas and con­tem­po­rary art in Edmon­ton. This has led her to devel­op The­o­ry for Din­ner, a month­ly dis­cus­sion group infor­mal­ly explor­ing the inter­sec­tion of art and the­o­ry. As a forum for exchange and com­mu­ni­ty-build­ing, The­o­ry for Din­ner meets on the first Wednes­day of the month at Lat­i­tude 53. Anne’s oth­er projects include The Col­lec­tive Mem­o­ry Project, a forth­com­ing exhi­bi­tion explor­ing the his­to­ry and lega­cy of eugenic thought in Alber­ta, and work with the Liv­ing Archives on Eugen­ics in West­ern Cana­da. She is present­ly seek­ing admis­sion to grad­u­ate stud­ies for next fall.